Amazon is the Best!… Eh, Not Really

So if you are a publisher, or an independent author, there is a very good chance that using Amazon to distribute your books has become a no-brainer. After all — they ARE the giant in the industry, right. Their market share around the world is simply huge. No one else can compete, right?

Well, not so fast. In the U.S., Amazon is undeniably a big contender. As of 2018, they had cornered roughly 48% of the US market. The closest competitor, Kobo had, the last time I checked, a respectable 20% of the U.S. market. A good showing, but nowhere near what Amazon commands. Although, in 2018, Kobo and Walmart did join forces to distribute ebooks in the U.S., so time will tell if the Canadian giant Kobo and Walmart will give Amazon a run for its money when it comes to ebook sales.

But the last time I checked, the world market was a bit bigger than just the U.S. Looking at the same statistics provided by the 2018 Statista report cited earlier, we find that Amazon in the “Non-US” Market is not doing so hot — just 13.8%. And over the world as a whole? Amazon’s e-commerce market share of 2018 is a disappointing 5.6%.

A Few Questions to Ask

So what does this mean to the small publisher or indie author? Simple. You’ve got some options. And depending on where your target markets are, there are much more viable options than Amazon. So how do you find the right choices for you? In my experience, the best approach is to ask yourself a series of simple questions:

  • Who will buy my e-book?
  • Do I want to work one-on-one with vendors?
  • How much of my profits am I willing to give up per book?

Now most authors will gleefully answer the first question as “EVERYONE! ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE WILL BUY MY BOOK!” Ah, if that was only true. What a grand world we would live in as authors! But the truth is, not everyone is going to buy your book. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. So as an author, you need to use your limited resources to target your ideal market.

If you think about it, your ideal market has at least three components — who they are, what they like, and where they live. And while their location might not play a huge factor, it should be taken into consideration when deciding how and where to sell your books. Do you think the majority of your buyers will be located in the U.S.? Then Amazon should certainly be in the mix — but not the only option. But if most of your customers are in Canada or the UK, then other ebook vendors, such as Kobo or iBooks or even Google Play might be a better one to focus on.

Personally, I’m a big fan of diversification. With a worldwide market share as low as Amazon currently has, it simply does not make sense to grant exclusivity to them, especially if you want to sell on a global scale. Especially since many of their competitors offer the same, or possibly better royalty and payment packages.

Now, in a way, the next two questions, of whether or not you want to work one on one with vendors, and how much you’re willing to give up in profits influence each other. Simply put, working one on one with the vendors does mean more work, and more potential hassle, but as a general rule, you do get a larger percentage of the profits. In most cases, the royalties you receive can be between 35% and 70% depending on which vendors you decide to do business with. Aggregate sites, such as Draft2Digital or PublishDrive, that take your work and distribute to e-book vendors on your behalf will usually take a flat percentage rate — say 10% — or a flat monthly fee.

So which route should you choose? That really depends on how much time you have to spend on book sales and distribution. If you’re like me, and you have a toddler running around while running two businesses, you don’t have a whole lot of time. For me, I find the aggregate sites the way to go. Yes, profits don’t come to me immediately — they usually have a payout threshold– but I don’t have to deal with the headache of, well dealing with the vendors. However, if you only have a few books, or a good bit of time on your hands, working one one one may be more profitable in the long run.

Give Me A List

Okay, Okay, I hear you. You want a list of the vendors besides Amazon that I like. Well, here you go. Just keep in mind that your ideal list might be different than mine. And yes, these are in order of preference.

My Choice For E-Book Vendors

  1. Kobo
  2. Google Play
  3. Barnes and Noble

My Choice for Paperback/Hardbound Book Vendors

  1. Books a Million
  2. Ingram
  3. Baker & Taylor

My Choice for Aggregate Distributors

  1. Publish Drive
  2. Draft2Digital
  3. Smashwords

A Final Note

I will say, that none of these businesses requested mention, nor did they pay me to have them in this blog. These choices are based on either my personal experience with them, or the experience of people I trust and respect. Your mileage may be different. And if you have problems with any of them, please feel free to comment below and get the conversation going.

So above all, stay smart about your publishing and distribution of your masterpieces, and HAPPY WRITING!

© 2019, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.

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Laura Seeber

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